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Zipadelli pleased with SHR's Daytona showing

January 17, 2012, Dave Rodman, NASCAR.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Busy weekend cut short after team earned an early departure from Thunder

Greg Zipadelli's driven away from a lot of Cup Series tests at Daytona International Speedway, but until last weekend he'd never been in a position of simultaneously balancing two critical roles.

After monitoring five of six practice sessions at Preseason Thunder preparing for Speedweeks 2012, seeing how well the three Stewart-Haas Racing teams for which he's competition director had performed -- and specifically how well rookie Cup Series driver Danica Patrick's test had gone under interim crew chief Zipadelli's direction -- it was easy to see why Zipadelli looked so relaxed.

"Daytona's test is a little bit slower but we didn't make mistakes, we made good changes, we made progress and the car got faster as the days went on and that's what you're looking for."

--GREG ZIPADELLI

"What's good for me is I've had the 10 car [Patrick's] to kind of help me make that transition into the year and into the new job," Zipadelli said of the switch from crew chief to manager. "I still enjoy the crew chief part of it. I'm having fun here and I've got a good group of guys from the shop that all pitched in to help out and they've done a really nice job.

"Daytona's test is a little bit slower but we didn't make mistakes, we made good changes, we made progress and the car got faster as the days went on and that's what you're looking for."

Owner/driver Tony Stewart on Friday had joked about Zipadelli being no different than the tough but effective taskmaster Stewart remembered from the 10 years they'd worked together at Joe Gibbs Racing from 1999-2008. Stewart had wanted to leave Florida that night to travel to Tulsa, Okla., where earlier in the week Stewart had qualified for Saturday night's A Main race of the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals.

Zipadelli didn't allow it, though he released Ryan Newman's No. 39 Chevrolet team after two days of testing because Newman "was sick, had a fever and he was in there getting IVs and fluids," Zipadelli said. "I told him to go home before everybody else got sick, but more important he needed to be home with his family."

For his own team's part Zipadelli said he'd also seen enough by Saturday noon.

"I was very happy with our car's speed and that was my primary [Daytona 500 car]," Zipadelli said. "We're coming down here [for Speedweeks] and we're not sure of our point situation and everything yet and I just need to have a fast race car. I don't need to take a chance of tearing it up."

Zipadelli said trying to make single-car qualifying runs while the majority of teams were drafting wasn't productive and "our guys have worked seven days a week for a while now and they're working late every night so this is my way of saying 'thank you, let's load up, go home and watch football [Saturday] afternoon and be with our family.'"

He said he was particularly pleased with how well Patrick, who plans to make her Sprint Cup debut in the Daytona 500 after two partial seasons and 25 career Nationwide Series starts, had performed. The 500 is the first of 10 Sprint Cup starts Patrick plans this season and Zipadelli will probably be her crew chief for all of them.

"It was a lot easier and she did a lot better job than I thought and it wasn't that I was [doubting her]," Zipadelli said. "But I just didn't know, so I didn't want to put any expectations on her coming down here. So I was very relaxed and just kind of stepped back with a game plan and we worked through our things.

"She responded very well, very good feedback [and] did a really good job in the draft, which was great."

Zipadelli's been working at SHR for about a month and he said that's given him plenty of insight into what he has to look forward to, working with a guy who at times could have been tagged as both his partner and an adversary.

"So far it's fun and everything's gone good," Zipadelli said. "They're coming off a good season and like I said, we've all done a good job preparing for the [Daytona] 500 and right now it's all fun.

"The thing about Tony, like I've said our relationship over the years past, we can go up and down and it'll all be good. It's just a matter of keeping the confidence in him for the next few years while he's driving and making sure he has what he needs to go out and perform."

In addition to having Zipadelli in charge of his three teams for the first time, Stewart is also adjusting to having a new crew chief for the second time in SHR's four-year existence. But that man, Zipadelli and Stewart's former Gibbs Racing teammate Steve Addington, has fit in better than well, Zipadelli said.

"It's been fun because I'm working with Steve Addington, who's one of my closest personal friends and to be able to come back and have a working relationship where we understand each other and trust each other -- that part of it is really good," Zipadelli said. "[Tony] Gibson, he's just like Steve -- just a good, solid guy. He's here to help us and he's a team guy and from that aspect it's been really nice.

"For me and all our guys that are new and have been moved around it's been fun and it's been easy. You couldn't ask for a better group of guys to come in and help each other, from what I've seen right here."